Re-reviews haven’t really been a thing here on ATW, but the times they are a changin’ and the subject of decline is one that comes up time and again, so…let’s revisit an old favorite and a bottle that’s always open around here.
No need to spend a lot of time talking about this one. We all know it. And let’s face it…I do spend a lot of time on Ardbeg here. MJ had his Macallan, Serge has his Brora, I have my Ardbeg (and PE). We write about what we love. (Ano…I do not consider myself to be in such illustrious company, just drawing a parallel).
I do want to say, though, that I don’t buy into the recent rumblings that An Oa will boot this from the core range. That would be suicide. This brand has proven time and time again that they’re nothing if not a few steps ahead. The last thing they’re gonna do is go entirely NAS.
Oh yeah…and they’re producing at an incredible clip, with long range plans for distillery expansion. Surprised it took so long. Anyway…notes:
Nose: Razor sharp and incredibly clean. Big smoke and very organic peat notes. Citrus (lemon and lime). Salt water. Vanilla. A little orange and pear. A nice peppery bite. Jolly Ranchers. Shellfish drizzled in whisky. Ginger and more pepper.
Palate: Peaty arrival. Assertive lemon notes. Pepper. Chocolate (white and dark). Lime and a touch of orange oil. Love that peppery, licorice-heavy back end. Apple peelings on the finish.
Thoughts: As good as ever. Arguably still the best 10 year old on the market.
– Images & words: Curt
Good to hear you say the 2015 was still good. Haven’t had any Ardbeg since I finished off my Ardbog about six months ago. Since then I’ve been drinking less of the peated variety and more of the bourbon variety. Really enjoyed my Kilhoman 2008 Vintage, and have strongly considered the Machir Bay. Problem is it is $55+ and Ardbeg 10 is $42ish. I’d like to see a 2017 review of the 10, but will probably just flip a coin to decide. Win-win situation, so I won’t be upset either way. Both LVMH whiskies (Ardbeg and Glenmorangie 10’s) are great values for the money. Hope that continues.
So Curt, what DO you think is the point of the new An OA? I don’t see that you jumped into the speculation in the comments on your An Oa review.
There, I said this: “Why did we need a new 46% NAS Ardbeg that seems (at least on paper), like some kind of Oogie Jr. and costs 30% more than the good old Ten?”
An Oa might not kill the Ten entirely but, coming from the praiseworthy distillery that’s always “a few steps ahead”, is that the real purpose of An Oa anyway… or is it to simply premiumize its younger stock, as well as the Ten and everything else that’s higher on Ardbeg’s food chain.? Every cask that goes to An Oa can’t go anywhere else, so pressures on supply lines and prices increase for other products. The question isn’t “will there still be a Ten tomorrow?”, but “how much of it will there be and what will you have to pay for it?”. What anybody else needed didn’t figure into it.
Speaking of premiumisation, is there still any reason as to why An Oa should be more expensive than the Ten? Maybe the geniuses at Ardbeg have a solution to that too… and it doesn’t involve lowering the price of An Oa, even though An Oa will help to bring it about. And there WILL be a resolution to that issue, one way or another, because An Oa is a permanent line addition – so its effects will be ongoing. Comparative artificial scarcity? Not for the Ten; it’s going to be real because An Oa, and math, make it so.
So Jeff, your theory is that the An Oa will set a new price floor for Ardbeg’s line and we’ll see the price of the Ten jump up to, say, “An Oa + 20%” after a while? I think that’s a sound theory.
There was news this week that Lagavulin would make the 8 permanent, and I posted elsewhere a similar theory that its purpose was to prop up prices for the 16.
I think it’s a good possibility, given that there will be less Ten to go around and what could be a quite intentional quality/resource investment level on An Oa – for all the “accolades” given the newbie, I don’t see many saying that it’s better than the Ten, or even as good – so… if An Oa is “worth” this much, the Ten must “now” be “worth” this much more. As an “entry-level” whisky, this thing isn’t priced like Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, and I think Curt is one of the few reviewers to even mention the pricing – so the writing’s on the wall and most bloggers seem to have read it and fell in line.
But, what can you expect from the distillery that can do no wrong? Dr. Bill could stand in the middle of Feis Ile and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose customers – and that certainly seems to be resulting in better whisky for everybody.
probably sales would go up…everyone loves a scandal.
Ha, Bob! I bet that WOULD boost sales.
And anyway, why should that cause any loss of business to begin with? Unless an entire enterprise is just a front to fund some maniac’s campaign of systematic murder, I don’t base my buying decisions on the behavior of the company’s employees.
(Hmmm…maybe I’m taking this whole massacre thing too seriously…blame Halloween.)
Ardbeg imo is about form over substance most of the time.
The TEN beats the An Oa with both arms bound in the back any time. But before the decission to bottle the TEN as a ten year old and leave older casks out for more profitable bottlings the TEN has changed obviously.
As to capacity… somewhere I read that there is a video on the Ardbeg homepage where there is talk about – the long awaited – expansion of distilling capacity.
I would see that in the same light as the resurrection of Brora Port Ellen and Rosebank as a bet on a glorious future for single malts.
We will see if it works out… the BRIC state expectation have not quite worked as predicted.
Jeff, I think you have a good point about An Oa being step 1 in a strategy where step 2 is “raise the price of the Ten’—even WITHOUT your sub-theory about the An Oa causing “less Ten to go around.”
It’s not as if a short supply of Ten would take Ardbeg by surprise and they’d be FORCED to raise prices to avoid retail shortages. They know what they’re doing.
I always imagine that each distillery has a beancounter someplace with an elaborate spreadsheet where they model their limited production feeding various products at various prices, and “tweaking the knobs and levers” until that big dollar sign at the bottom is as big as it can be.
I was pretty taken with Benromach 10 (both versions) – I can see an argument for the Ardbeg 10 being better than the regular 10 in terms or more power and more peat, but of the few times I’ve tried Ardbeg 10, the Ben 10/100 has more finesse and complexity.
Also, let’s not lose sight of Bowmore Tempest – sure it has a name, but it’s big and powerful and also has an age statement.
Seems like there is a lot of criticism of Ardbeg for adding another scotch which you don’t feel is “worthy”. And that you predict will cause the price of the other offerings to rise. I say to Ardbeg (and Glenmorangie) stay on the same track that you are currently on. They both have a solid line of whiskies at reasonable prices, offer special bottlings at least once a year (which are interesting and often quite good), and give us very good 10 YO’s at outstanding prices. Save your bitching for Macallan (and Dalmore), who have been releasing lesser versions of their base whiskies for much higher prices, and make questionable decisions by releasing whisky by color. AND drop the CS!
I’ll speak just for myself, but I don’t think it’s CRITICISM of Ardbeg as much as it’s SUSPICION of Ardbeg.
I agree that their “three solid & affordable core whiskies + an occasional one-off that you can try or ignore” menu is really good. I don’t want that to change—or at least, not to change for the worse. This An Oa addition smells like a change for the worse. I hope I’m wrong.
As for the likes of Macallan and Dalmore—sure, they’re among the worst offenders out there. But that doesn’t mean we need hold our tongue when we see something concerning elsewhere. Like here.
I don’t know about An Oa being “worthy” – I don’t hold Ardbeg in any special exclusive esteem and I’m not nominating anything for an award or membership in the Masons – but it is more expensive, and not an improvement, over what they already had and it will divert stock away from the Ten. Just like Kelpie – not as good and more expensive so, sure, maintain your course, helmsman, and stay on track. And, yes, that represents both suspicion and criticism.
My concern is that uncritical, even anti-critical, thinking is giving whisky enthusiasts the Ardbeg they deserve… just as it, and some Russians, helped to give Americans the president they deserve. Maybe all the nonsense, based largely on a couple of good cask strengths, a Ten that doesn’t break 90/100 and a lot of “legendary” whiskies that now either aren’t in production anymore or are priced beyond most people’s budget, needs to be significantly reeled in. If Ardbeg’s dog Shorty came to their house and shit on the carpet, many people would give him a steak, a medal, and have the turd bronzed.
And then people would make counterfeit bronzed turds and flip them online. There’s also a lot of collection value retention in talking Ardbeg to the skies, but it doesn’t help the average consumer.
I do like Ardbeg but, as with Macallan and the re-born Brora, the best version of the distillery will probably prove to be the one that isn’t loved unconditionally. With many sacred distilleries today, it seems love means never having to say “that’s bullshit”.